Looking at the model number of the OCZ Vertex 450 and you would be thinking that the product falls in the same family as the Vertex 4. However, the only thing that the Vertex 450 shares with the Vertex 4 is only the branding of Vertex. Other than that, the Vertex 450 actually is more closely related to the performance Vector series SSD that OCZ has launched late last year.
The Vertex 450 uses the same Barefoot III (part number IDX500M10-BC) controller as the Vector but instead of using 25nm NAND MLC chip as the Vector, the Vertex 450 is paired with the die-shrunk 20nm MLC NAND. The shift to 20nm fabrication process is inevitable in order to save costs and to increase the NAND capacity so that manufacturers could pack more bits per die. This not only drives the price of the SSD down but also helps to increase the storage capacity. While the price of SSD is still relatively expensive compared to hard drivse (and it probably will never reach to the point of the HDD in any foreseeable future), the price has at least gotten to sub $1 per gigabyte, much more affordable than it used to.
The die shrink does yield unfavorable consequence in terms of drive endurance. The way that SSDs store data is by trapping electrons in an insulated floating gate. When voltage is applied, electrons are being moved in and out of the cell. The movement of the electron in and out of the cell slowly weakens the insulating layer eventually will render the cell inability to trap electrons. Eventually, all of the cells in an SSD will die that leads to the drive no longer able to hold any data. As the manufacturing process shrinks, the insulating layers also gets thinner, which lowers write cycle that each individual cell can sustain. For 25nm NAND, it has a rated program/erase cycle (P/E cycle) of 3000 ~5000 and the die shrink to 20nm NAND yields about 1000 to 3000 P/E cycles.
Do not be too alarmed that your drive will eventually fail. Unless you write tons of data to your drive daily, the chance of a drive failure is pretty slim. Most SSD manufacturers estimates the drive endurance with daily write of 20GB of data on the drive. For a drive with 3 year warranty, this works out to be 21.9TB of data and 5 year warranty drive would 36.5TB of data. The reality is that the chance of the NAND fail is pretty slim before the drive is replaced or that the drive died prematurely due to other factors such as firmware, power, or others. Taking my own PC with the Intel SSD 520 for example, it is about a little over a year since the SSD has been installed and and so far I have written 4TB of data on the drive based on the data reported by Intel SSD Toolbox. So there are still plenty of writes available.
We still highly recommend SSD as a primary boot drive despite its minor flaw. The performance gained from SSD is really nights and days. With SSD you would experience fast boot time, quicker resume, faster application launching that we all come and enjoy from our mobile devices (which also uses non movable parts called eMMC).
Currently, almost all mainstream SSDs use 20nm NAND. The 25nm NAND drives are still available for purchase but often reserved for server or professional drives and often carry slightly premium pricing. For example, the 256GB OCZ Vector is retail at $369.95 while the same capacity Vertex 450 is asking at $229.99, a whopping $139.96 cheaper. Obviously, the difference in pricing also accounts for the slight performance difference of the two drive, the type of NAND used, and the warranty length. Even with the reduced endurance, the 20nm Vertex 450 still have a rated 21.9TB of write endurance, which should be enough to last the lifespan of the drive for a typical desktop PC.
Obviously, drive endurance is not a guarantee that a drive will not fail due other issue besides wearing of NAND chip as mentioned earlier. OCZ’s SSD reliability seems to be that of a mixed bag where some users may never have issue or where it may encounter drive failure. So far, there is not much data to go by with the Vertex 450 but the 128GB Vector earned 3 out of 5 at Newegg’s rating out of 74 reviews and the 256GB model got 4 out of 5 from 116 reviews. So it appears that the company is doing slightly better than it used to do. Now with OCZ doing everything in house (controller, NAND certification, firmware), we hope the company will continue to improve upon the validation process and testing so that the drive’s reliability can be improved.
OCZ Vertex 450
Despite the Vertex 450 is aimed at the mainstream market, we see that OCZ has abandoned the 64GB model and instead we get 128GB as the minimum capacity with 256GB and 512GB drives are also available. This is a smart move since 64GB really is too small for a typical system. In addition, larger capacity drives also employees NAND chips with higher density that could also leads to performance gain due to interleaving. Though, for the 20nm drives, this often applies to the drives with 256GB capacity or larger. Still, the Vertex 450 offers a very good price per gigabytes at about or below $1 per gigabyte ratio. The $129.99 price tag of the 128GB model and the 256GB drive is retailed at $229.99 while the 512GB is retailed at $499.99.
The 128GB model has a rated sequential read of 525 MB/s and sequential write of 290 MB/s, random read of 75,000 IOPS and 70,000 IOPS. Obviously, with SSD, 256GB or higher is the preferred option given to the performance improvement and storage capacity. We often recommend the 256GB as the sweet spot for the desktop SSD but we understand that not everyone can afford a $200 drive so the 128GB is a decent option consider that you will get the benefit of faster boot up time and quicker response benefit from SSD over any HDD. Both the 256GB model and the 512GB model have a rated sequential read of 540 MB/s, random read of 85,000 IOPS, and random write of 90,000 IOPS. The sequential write for the 256GB is rated at 525 MB/s while the 512GB is slightly higher at 530MB/s.
Like the Vector, the Vertex 450 also features BCH ECC error correction up to 44 random bits/1KT and SMART technology. It features TRIM support, and idle time garbage collection. One difference between the Vector and the Vertex 450 is the AES support. Despite the same Barefoot III controller, the Vertex 450 uses a different revision, the M10, that adds the support for 256-bit AES support though, OCZ does not seem to be advertising such feature on their website.
The drive is backed by OCZ 3 year warranty. OCZ rates the drive to lasts 3 years under typical client workloads of 20GB/day writes. OCZ’s own rating on the SSD endurance quotes the drive to have 2 million hours of MTBF. For the power consumption, the 128GB is rated to have idle power consumption of 0.55W and 2.15W load, the 256GB and 512GB is rated wot have 0.60W idle and 2.65W load.
The drives are compatible with SATA III 6 Gbps and is backward compatible with SATA II 3 Gbps interface. It has a dimension of 99.7×69.5x7mm and weighs 115g. The 7 mm thin profile means that you should be able to use the drive in Ultrabooks. The weight of the drive is significantly heavier than other 7mm drives on the market. OCZ employees heavy aluminum casing for the Vertex 450 which helps to protect the drive and also acts as heatsink for the controller. While we are not certain if the weight is necessary, it does help to make the drive feel very sturdy. The downside is that if you plan to use it in an Ultrabook for portability, it may not help much to lighten your loads. For desktop, the weight is not an issue.
Remove the SSD from the casing and we can see that the Vertex 450 has the Indilinx IDX500M10-BC controller on one side of the PCB. Despite the same Indilinx controller, the one found on the Vertex 450 is the M10 revision as oppose to the M00 revision on the Vector. Compare to the M00, the M10 runs at a reduced clockspeed but it adds 256-bit AES support.
Surrounding the controller are eight 20nm 8GB asynchronous NAND manufactured by Intel/Micron with part number 29F64C08CBABB. Eight more NAND chips are on the flip side. We also get two Micron DDR3-800 MHz memory, one on either side of the PCB. Unlike some of the older OCZ midrange SSDs, OCZ did not put their own branding on the NAND.
The Indilinx Barefoot III controller is able to address eight channels of memory with four dies per channel, or 32 NAND dies in total. With our 128GB model, there is only 16 NAND dies so it is not fully saturating what the controller is capable of. For that, you would need 256Gb or higher capacity drive. As a result, the performance of the drive took a slight hit as we shall see in just a second. If you want the absolute best performance, go with the 256GB or larger drive.
As usual, OCZ shipped their SSD in the typical padded cardboard box. It includes a copy of Acronis True Image 2013 key to help you to transition data from your current drive to the new drive. The Vertex 450 also comes with a 2.5” to 3.5” bracket and a I Love SSD sticker.
We are going to do things slightly different this time with the OCZ Vertex 450. Normally, we compare the performance of the single drive SSD. However, we already know that the OCZ Vertex 450 is going to be fast compare to the HDD and it would be comparable to other SSDs with similar storage capacity. What we are going to do here, in addition to show the performance of the OCZ Vertex 450 is also test the drive in RAID configuration. OCZ sent us two Vertex 450 128GB models for our purpose.
RAID was one way to improve performance with hard drives. By pairing multiple drives together, you would be able to gain additional performance as you read and write data across multiple drives. When comes to SSD, the biggest performance gain from paring up two disks in RAID 0 would be in sequential read and write. Random read and write do not benefit as much as the sequential read and write because SSDs are already fast enough for these tasks. However, it does not mean that there won’t be performance gain. In fact, at higher queue depth, having multiple drives would benefit.
We must mention that if you are going to be using SSDs in RAID 0, we highly recommend a system with Intel 7 series or higher chipset. Intel has finally brings TRIM support for RAID 0 to the 7 series and higher chipset. TRIM helps to reduce write amplification and prolongs drive’s endurance. Without TRIM, the drive’s endurance maybe suffered and the performance may not be the most optimal.
When comes to RAID, picking the right stripe size is critical for the type of data you are dealing with. We ran the Vertex 450 across different stripe size in order to get an idea how well the drives scaled up across different stripe size and queue depth. Iometer is a great tool to show how the performance scaled up across different configuration.
For random read, we can see that picking the small stripe size is preferred. Though, notice that at low queue depth, the performance difference with and without RAID is pretty small. It is not until about queue depth of 4 where there is a clear benefit in terms of IOPS (~30%). Higher queue depth further shows the performance improvement of RAID where we see about 58% higher IOPS at queue depth of 32.
Since the Vertex 450 does not saturate the number NAND die that the controller is capable of, adding a second drive in RAID helped out with its random write. The performance is still not going to be as good as single larger capacity drive but it helps to remedy some of its shortcomings. With two disks in RAID 0, the random write speed improves about 14% at queue depth of 1 and 240% at queue depth of 32 (stripe size 8). The biggest improvement comes from queue depth of 2 with 325%. After queue depth of 2, the performance plateaued. Picking stripe size of 8KB if preferred if you want the absolute best performance but even at stripe size of 128KB, we still get twice of the IOPS improvement.
While the Vector 450 sequential read performs poorly at low queue depth, its performance scaled up nicely and almost linearly as the number of queue depths. Immediately we can notice that two disks in RAID 0 doubles the the sequential read at stripe size of 8KB. The performance is further improved as we increased the stripe size to 16KB but larger stripe size than 16KB does not have a major impact on the performance until we hit the queue depth of 16 or higher.
Sequential write of a single Vertex 450 is once again increasing at almost linearly as the number of the queue depth though the performance increase is not as dramatic as what we observed with the sequential read. With two disks in RAID 0, the performance once again is doubled. Here, the performance between the different stripe size is not as dramatic as what we observed from the sequential read. Ultimately, we are at the mercy of just how much data can be written to the NAND. Interestingly, the Stripe size of 8 seemed to offer the best performance, followed by the stripe size 128KB.
Like hard drive RAID, picking the right stripe size is crucial if you want the best performance. Stripe size of 8KB and 16KB works best if majority of data you are dealing with are random read and write but 32KB or higher would be best if you primarily dealing with sequential read and write. With our Intel Z77 chipset board, the default stripe size of 16KB seems to offer a good balance if you are dealing with mixture of random and sequential data. While 8KB works reasonably well across the board, it suffered significantly at sequential read, 16KB stripe size offers better sequential read compared to the 8KB and still retained good random read and write performance.
|CPU||Intel Core i5 2500K|
|Motherboard||Asus P8Z68-V Pro|
|Ram||Kingston HyperX 1600|
|CPU Cooler||Prolimatech Megahalem|
|GPU||PNY GTX 670|
|Case Fans||120mm Fan cooling the mosfet CPU area|
|Testing PSU||Cooler Master UCP 900W|
|Gaming Ear Buds||None|
We include the result of RAID 0 with stripe size 16KB as that is the default setting for the Intel chipset.
Let’s start with the random read performance. The 128GB Vertex 450 performs decent at queue depth of 1 but as we crank up the queue depth, it falls behind some of the current generation of 256GB drives. RAID 0 does not help much here since the drive is already fast enough and at such low queue depth, you will not benefit much from the second drive.
Desktop workloads will never stress more than a few queue depth but we present the 32 queue depth here to show the performance improvement with RAID 0. As you can see, despite the fact that RAID 0 does not help with the low queue depth performance, it has a major impact at queue depth of 32 where it is able to deliver 50% improvement. None of the single drive can even match the performance of the two drives in RAID.
Having less die per NAND on the 128GB drive lowers its random write performance and as a result it is not able to really compete against the drives with larger storage. RAID 0 helps out a little where we can see that the two drive in RAID 0 yields 50% improvement with queue depth of 1 and four times of the performance with queue depth of 3. It is still unable, however, to match the drives with maximum numbers of NAND channels.
At higher queue depth, we can see that the 240GB drive still yields better performance compare to the two drives in RAID.
The sequential read of the Vertex 450 is on par with the 256GB Vertex 4. One of the biggest improvement that users would be able to notice with RAID 0 of two SSDs would be the sequential read performance where it takes the lead over single drive.
Sequential write unfortunately suffered again due to the reduced NAND dies.
When comes to reading incompressible data, the Vertex 4 is not as fast as some of the current generation 256GB drive but it is faster than many of the SSDs couple of years ago.
Similarly, the 4K random write of incompressible data is slower than current crops of SSDs but it is faster than the many of the older drives on the market.
Notice that RAID 0 does not help the performance in the random read and write. In fact, the performance actually took a little bit of hit. RAID 0 really will not help much performance at queue depth 1.
However, we can see the performance improvement as the number of threads increased.
With the AS SSD, we see the sequential write for the two drives in RAID actually offers almost double of the bandwidth compare to the single 128GB drive. If you are dealing with a lot read and write of incompressible data, then having two SSDs in RAID as oppose to a single faster drive could yield a very good performance improvement.
The random read and write performance of the Vertex 450 is respectable for a 128GB drive where we can see that it is faster than the Kingston SSDNow V+ and V100. RAID does not help much when comes to small file read and write and thus, while there is small improvement compare to the single drive, the performance is still lagging behind the latest 256GB drives.
Higher queue depth again favors the RAID 0 configuration
The 512K transfer benefited with RAID 0 configuration.
The sequential read of the 120GB drive in CrystalMark is decent but the write lags behind the 240GB drive but it is worth noting that it is actually able to perform close to the 240GB Vertex 3. In RAID 0 configuration, we see a significant performance gain that is almost double of what we get from a single drive.
We turn to PCMark 07′s HD suite to assess the drive’s general usage performance. Here we can see that the Vertex 450 is still fast enough compare to other drives. It once again beats out many older 240GB drives from a couple of years ago. With two drives in RAID, it takes the top spot and offers about 5% improvement.
When we look at the individual tasks, we can see two drives in RAID 0 excels in benchmarks such as Importing Picture, Application Load, and Video Editing.
When compare the drive in RAID 0, we see it definitely offers some nice performance improvement especially at higher queue depth. As manufacturing process improves, we are going to see 128Gb die to become a standard pretty soon in many SSDs. The larger capacity NAND means that SSDs would need less NAND for the same capacity as current drives that uses 64Gb die, which would mean that it would leads to lower performance due to the number of available channels are not being maximized. Putting two drives can improves on the shortcomings but ultimately, it can only do so much. As our data shows that write performance is one area that suffered the most with drives without maximizing its memory channels and having two drives in RAID would offer about 15~30% improvement. On some area, this would make the drive just as fast or faster as the drive with maximum number of NAND but on some area, especially at low queue depth writes, it is still not able to catch up with larger drives.
For about $1 per gigabyte, the Vertex 450 128GB certainly offers a very good performance. The drive performs well in the read area but suffered in the write due to the fact that it does not saturate the NAND that the controller can handle. What this translates to is that when you are creating files or installation applications, it can feel a bit slower or takes a bit longer than the larger capacity drives on the market. Still, even with this minor shortcoming, it is still significantly than any mechanical drives. For those who are looking for a budget SSD, it certainly would serve well for a boot drive. The 128GB capacity is plenty for OS and commonly used application. Given to the fact that most desktop workloads are primarily read, the slower write may not even be as big of a deal. If we look at the performance of the drive, we can see it is actually able to deliver respectable performance compare to the older 240GB from a couple of years ago. Obviously, if you are looking for the best performance, we still recommend go with the 240GB model for the absolute best and balanced performance. If budget is a concern and you need to replace your aging SSD or old mechanical hard drive, the 120GB Vertex 450 is certainly a viable option.
|Good price to performance ratio3 year warranty
Good read performance
Good performance at high queue depth
Good bundle with Acronis True Image
Scales well with RAID 0
|Heavy caseWrite performance of a single drive lags behind the 240GB drives|